Colorado Ketamine Laws

200 milligram bottle of injectible Ketamine

Colorado penalties for use, possession or sale of Ketamine

Ketamine – known sometimes as K, Special K, jet, or cat valium – is an anesthetic medication commonly used as a recreational drug.

Although considered less dangerous than drugs such as heroin, cocaine, hallucinogens or methamphetamine, the possession or sale of Ketamine in Colorado is punished severely. While use of Ketamine is a misdemeanor that can be punished solely by a fine of $50-$750, possessing or selling Ketamine is a felony.

Depending on the quantity, penalties for the possession or sale of Ketamine in Colorado can run as high as 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

You may also face up to 4 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500,000 if you violate Colorado's law against drugging someone with ketamine, 18-13-103 C.R.S.

To help you better understand Colorado's laws on ketamine, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

small pile of white powder next to rolled-up hundred dollar bill

1. What is Ketamine?

Ketamine, sold under the brand name Ketalar, among others, is a “dissociative anesthetic.” It is used most commonly on animals as a veterinary anesthetic.

As a recreational drug, Ketamine can be injected, consumed in drinks, snorted, or added to joints or cigarettes. It is known on the street by various nicknames including K, Special K, jet, and cat valium.

Short- and long-term effects of Ketamine include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations, cravings and potentially fatal respiratory problems. At high doses, users sometimes experience an “out of body” or “near-death” effect referred to as a “K-Hole.”

Because of the detached, dreamlike state that Ketamine can cause, it is sometimes used as a “date-rape” drug.

Technically, Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. Schedule III controlled substances have a lower potential for abuse than schedule I and II drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and hallucinogens, as well as a currently accepted medical use in the United States.

Schedule III drugs are also considered to have a moderate or low potential for abuse that leads to physical dependence or high psychological dependence. However, due to its common abuse as a recreational “party drug,” Colorado law punishes the possession and sale of Ketamine as if it was a more serious schedule I or II controlled substance.

2. Colorado Ketamine penalties

2.1. Unlawful use of Ketamine – 18-18-404 C.R.S.

Using Ketamine is a Colorado level 2 drug misdemeanor for which the sole penalty is a fine of $50-$750. Alternatively, if it is your first offense, you may be eligible for a pretrial diversion to allow you to complete drug treatment. Upon successful completion, your misdemeanor use charges will be dismissed.

If, however, you also possess Ketamine -- as opposed to just using ketamine supplied by someone else -- you could be charged with the far more serious crime of Ketamine possession.

2.2. Unlawful possession of Ketamine -- 18-18-403.5 C.R.S.

Possessing Ketamine without legal authorization is a felony. Consequences of unlawful Ketamine possession in Colorado can include:

  • 6-12 months in prison (with 1 year of mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

Alternatively, if you may be eligible for deferred "wobbler" sentencing and drug treatment. Under this program, if you successfully complete drug treatment and comply with other terms of your probation, the court will reduce your felony charges to a misdemeanor possession charge.

You are not eligible for probation or a fine instead of imprisonment, however, if you have two or more prior convictions for a felony under federal law or the laws of Colorado or any other state.1

Prison time may further increase if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing, discussed in section 3, below.

Under certain circumstances, the court has the authority to suspend sentencing or delay putting you in prison to allow you to complete drug assessment and treatment. 

If you complete your court-ordered treatment, the court will reduce your Ketamine possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. As a condition of probation and drug treatment, however, the court may impose whatever terms and conditions it deems in your and the public's best interests. Such terms and conditions can include (without limitation) that you not use drugs or commit any other crimes while on probation.

You are not eligible for drug treatment and reduction of your sentence if:

  • You are ineligible for probation under 18-1.3-201 C.R.S.,
  • You have ever been convicted of a crime of violence,
  • You have two or more prior felony drug convictions (including any prior diversions or drug felonies reduced to misdemeanors).

2.3. Manufacture, distribution, sale or possession for sale of Ketamine -- Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S

Manufacturing, distributing, or selling Ketamine or possessing it for sale is a felony in Colorado. Punishment varies depending on who you sell it to and the quantity of Ketamine involved.

2.3.1. More than 112 grams of Ketamine

You commit a Colorado level 1 drug felony and are subject to a mandatory prison sentence if you sell, manufacture or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains Ketamine and weighs more than 112 grams.2

Punishment for a Colorado level 1 drug felony can include:

  • 8-32 years in prison (with a minimum of 8 years mandatory and 3 years mandatory parole), and
  • A potential fine of $5,000-$1,000,000.

The mandatory minimum sentence increases to 12 years, however, if you are subject to Colorado's aggravated felony drug sentencing.

2.3.2. More than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams, of Ketamine

You commit a Colorado level 2 drug felony if:

  • Your Colorado 18-18-405 C.R.S violation involves any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing ketamine that weighs more than 7 grams, but not more than 112 grams, or
  • You are an adult and you sell, dispense, distribute, or otherwise transfer any quantity any material, compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any quantity of Ketamine to a minor who is at least two years younger than you.3

As a level 2 drug felony, sale or possession for sale of Ketamine can be punished by:

  • 4-8 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $3,000-$750,000.

Aggravated sentencing for a Colorado level 2 Ketamine felony can include 8-16 years in prison.

2.3.3. Not more than 7 grams of Ketamine

You commit a Colorado level 3 drug felony if you sell or possess for sale any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing not more than 7 grams of Ketamine.4

Punishment for a Colorado level 3 ketamine felony can include:

  • 2-4 years in prison (with 1 year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $2,000-$500,000.

If you are sentenced in the aggravated range, however, potential consequences of Ketamine sale or possession for sale as a level 3 drug felony increase to 4-6 years in prison.

2.3.4. Not more than 2 grams of Ketamine for immediate personal use

You commit a Colorado level 4 drug felony if:

  • You distribute or transfer any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing Ketamine for the purpose of consuming all of the Ketamine with another person or persons at a time substantially contemporaneous with the transfer, and
  • The distribution or transfer involves not more than 2 grams of such substance.5

Consequences of conviction for a Colorado level 4 Ketamine felony can include:

  • 6 months to 1 year in jail (with 1 year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

You may also be eligible for drug treatment under Colorado's deferred drug sentencing, as described above.

If your are subject to Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing, however, the period of possible incarceration increases to 1-2 years.

3. Colorado's aggravated sentencing for possession or sale of Ketamine

If the court finds that certain aggravating circumstances exist, your minimum sentence will be 9 months in prison and the maximum period of incarceration will increase.

Aggravating circumstances include violating Colorado's Ketamine laws while you are already incarcerated or on parole for a prior felony.
For a more complete explanation, please see our article on Colorado's aggravated drug sentencing law.

4. Defending Colorado Ketamine charges

The best defense to your Colorado Ketamine charges will depend on the circumstances of your case and the precise charges. However common defenses to Colorado Ketamine accusations often include (but are not limited to):

  • There is no evidence that you used Ketamine,
  • You were legally authorized to possess Ketamine and did so in compliance with applicable law,
  • A drug test violated your constitutional rights or produced unreliable results,
  • The Ketamine wasn't yours,
  • You didn't know you possessed the Ketamine,
  • You didn't know that what you possessed was a controlled substance,
  • The police found only trace amounts of Ketamine,
  • There was less Ketamine than the prosecutor charged (partial defense),
  • You had less than 2 grams of Ketamine and transferred it for your and a friend's personal use (partial defense),
  • The Ketamine was discovered during an illegal search and seizure, or
  • The police failed to read you your Miranda rights or engaged in other misconduct (such as planting evidence or coercing your confession).

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been busted for the unlawful use, possession or sale of Ketamine, our caring Colorado Ketamine defense lawyers may be able to help.

We understand that innocent people are often charged with a violation of Colorado's Ketamine laws or with a more serious charge than their offense warrants. That is why our experienced Colorado drug lawyers fight Ketamine charges vigorously.

We examine all the evidence and if it doesn't meet Colorado's strict evidentiary requirements we move to have the evidence excluded. Often this will lead to a dismissal of your case or a reduction in the charges.

Don't let a simple mistake get you branded a drug offender with a felony history. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how we can help you fight your Colorado Ketamine charges.

You can reach us by filling out the form on this page, or by calling us at our Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202

Legal references:

  1. 18-1.3-401.5 (2)(b)(V) C.R.S.
  2. 18-18-405 (2)(a) C.R.S.
  3. 18-18-405 (2)(b) C.R.S.
  4. 18-18-405 (2)(c) C.R.S.
  5. 18-18-405 (2)(d) C.R.S.


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